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The first of its kind: Te Oranga Waikura forest

Delphine Herbert
Antony Shadbolt at Te Oranga Waikura Urban Forest  Delphine Herbert

A dedicated team, six months and 16,000 native New Zealand trees and plants is what it took to complete the Te Oranga Waikura Urban Forest and stormwater Basin.

Located at 521 Ferry Road, the basin is situated on the old Linwood College fields.

"Te Oranga" means rejuvenation and is derived from Te Oranga Ahuriri, a place located near the forest. Waikura – wai meaning flow of water and kura reflecting leadership.

The quake damaged land was brought by the Christchurch City Council to be made into a stormwater basin, designed to protect surrounding properties during events of flooding and to regenerate the local ecosystem.

The forest area has over 16,000 native trees and plants, including close to 1000 kahikatea, 145 totara, and 145 matai trees. It even includes a 500 metre loop track around the area.

Christchurch City Council Land and Drainage Manager Keith Davison says the idea behind the project came about when there was flooding in 2014 after the earthquakes impacted the area badly so it was decided a stormwater basin needed to be put there to prevent future flooding.

“During that development it was felt that it was an opportunity to plant a forest there and so we had the opportunity to reduce flood risk in the area and also to provide a lasting legacy for the city.”

He says that specific land was used because it was a considerable size of land that is underused and underdeveloped.

“We were actually quite fortunate to have the land to reduce flood risk.”

Christchurch City Council Landscape Architect Dr Antony Shadbolt explains the forest will require very little maintenance.

“This site won’t require a lot of maintenance after three or four years. You will find the trees will touch canopy which will suppress the weeds. The edges might require a bit of weeding but the larger area is self-sustaining. The idea is that this will require very little maintenance compared to a grass basin or a shrub land.”

Davison says there are a number of other basins around Christchurch but this is the first time a basin has been planted as an urban forest.

“We do have a number which we have landscaped that is accessible to residents but this is something quite different and I don't think that there anything else in New Zealand that is an urban forest and also a stormwater basin.”

Shadbolt says the council is currently writing Christchurch’s tree and urban forest plan and want to have more forest patches like Te Oranga Waikura basin around the city.